Jeff Koons “Elephant” (Purple) Auctioned for $593,560 at Sotheby’s Paris Sale

. December 11, 2009

Sotheby’s biannual Evening Sale of Contemporary Art in Paris realised the remarkable total of €8,051,100 (£7,302,584 /$11,947,027), far surpassing pre-sale expectations of €4,680,000-6,440,000* ($6,938,240-9,547,493/£4,192,797-5,769,575). The auction saw all but one lot sell, achieving the joint-highest sell-through rate of 96.3% for a Sotheby’s Paris Evening Sale of Contemporary Art, and established a sold-by-value rate of 98.1% – the second-highest for an Evening Sale of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Paris.

Jeff KoonA further highlight of tonight’s auction was Jeff Koons’ Elephant (Purple), which was generously donated by the artist in 2009 to the Fondation Claude Pompidou and was sold tonight to benefit one of the foundation’s most recent projects dedicated to treating Alzheimer’s Disease. The work exceeded its pre-sale high estimate (estimate: €300,000-400,000) and finally sold for €400,000 ($593,560/£362,812) to a buyer on the telephone after a bidding battle with two other clients in the saleroom. Elephant (Purple) comes from Koons’ Easyfun series, and represents the first time a work by the artist has been offered at Sotheby’s saleroom in Paris.

Commenting on the sale of Elephant (Purple), Bernardette Chirac, President of the Fondation Claude Pompidou and wife of France’s former President, said: “This remarkable purple mirror is a very charming piece and I’m delighted that it sold tonight for such a good price. It was sold to benefit the Fondation Claude Pompidou and the money raised will specifically enable the construction of a hospital in Nice (South of France), dedicated to Alzheimer disease. This hospital, the Institut Claude Pompidou, will become a research centre on this disease. I am extremely grateful to Jeff Koons, a friend of Madame Georges Pompidou, for this magnificent present to the foundation.”

“Elephant” (Purple) comes from Koons’s Easyfun series, first shown at New York’s Sonnabend Gallery in 1999, at a time when Koons was struggling to complete his long-running Celebration project. It was partly in response to public impatience – and partly because of his desire to return to a more accessible style of art – that Koons conceived his Easyfun series, consisting of five paintings and eleven single-tone mirrors in the form of brightly coloured animal silhouettes. Each creature was stylized rather than naturalistic – part cartoon character, part marketing image. The easy-to-recognize Elephant calls on childhood images and memories from viewers’ collective subconscious. “Childhood is important to me,” explains Koons. “It’s when I first came into contact with art.”

Using a perfectly smooth, colourful, shiny surface, with nothing to indicate perspective or volume, Koons plays with representative codes and seeks to return to an art that is easy, immediate and amusing – in short, anything but elitist. “I see aesthetics, as such, as a great source of discrimination between people” says Koons. “Aesthetics can make some folks feel unworthy of feeling what art is all about. They think that art is above them.”

Category: Auction News

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